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Getting Pregnant After Depo-Provera Shots

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Marissa had one Depo Provera birth control injection and was able to get pregnant 18 months afterward.

REVIEWED BY
Dr. Tami Prince, Ob/Gyn, Women’s Health and Wellness Center of Georgia

What Is the Depo-Provera Shot?

Are you considering Depo-Provera injections as a form of birth control? Are you already on Depo Provera or have stopped it and wondered what it is doing to your body?

If you were to conduct an online search of Depo-Provera, what would you find?

  • Are people asking about side effects?
  • How about the thousands of women searching for answers concerning pregnancy during or after getting the shot?

I am one of those women.

I had only one Depo shot, and I was searching for answers I did not have after stopping the shot. I am going to share my research about the Depo shot and how it affects getting pregnant in the future.

The synthetic progesterone in Depo-Provera, or DMPA, works by keeping the progesterone levels in the body at a higher level, essentially making the body think it's pregnant and preventing ovulation. The longer Depo-Provera is used, the longer it will take your body to restore normal menstrual cycles.

Can I Get Pregnant While I'm Using Depo-Provera Birth Control?

Yes, but the chances are low.

The failure rate for Depo-Provera is estimated at 0.3%, which means that three women out of a thousand get pregnant while using it.

Even though the Depo-Provera shot is meant to prevent pregnancy, there is still a chance you could become pregnant while on it. Here are some of the possible ways that the Depo shot may fail:

  • The first shot was not given within the first 5 days of a normal period and you have had intercourse before the shot (meaning you were already pregnant at the time the shot was administered).
  • You had unprotected intercourse within the first month of the shot before it was absolutely effective in your body.
  • You did not get the next shot within 12 weeks.

For reasons unknown, a few women each year get pregnant while on the shot, even after being on the shot for longer than the first three months and getting it at the recommended times.

Just remember: the only failure-proof birth control method is no intercourse at all. All other forms are 99% or lower. If you want to prevent pregnancy while on the shot, use a backup method like a condom or spermicide.

If you do become pregnant while on Depo-Provera, stop taking it immediately and contact your healthcare provider. There is little or no increased risk of birth defects, yet in some countries, it has been reported that babies conceived while their mothers were on the shot may have a lower birth rate.

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How Long After My First Depo Shot Am I Protected?

Depo Provera typically provides immediate protection in the current cycle as long as it is given within five days of the start of menses, says Dr. Tami Prince. Women who receive their first Depo shot more than five days after a period, after delivering a baby, or after having an abortion should use a backup form of contraception, such as a condom, for seven days.

Can I Get Pregnant After Receiving One Depo-Provera Injection?

Yes, says Dr. Tami Prince, an OB-GYN with the Women’s Health and Wellness Center of Georgia:

  • "Pregnancy can occur after only one Depo Provera injection if the timing of the injection is off."

While the injection can be administered anytime during the cycle, she says, pregnancy must be ruled out first. This usually involves taking a pregnancy test at the first visit and another one in two weeks. If both pregnancy tests are negative, the Depo-Provera injection may be administered.

"If the injection is given without both negative pregnancy tests, and more than five days after menses, there is a possibility that pregnancy can occur, as ovulation would not have been accurately calculated," says Dr. Prince.

For women who have just delivered a baby, their normal menstrual cycle may not have returned. A health care provider might give a pregnancy test to ensure that the woman isn't pregnant again before administering the shot.

I Want to Get Pregnant. How Long Will it Take After I Stop Taking Depo Shots?

If you are trying to get pregnant and have had one injection, you aren't likely to get pregnant right away (although some women do). Remember that the injection lasts 12 weeks. After that, your body still has to adjust to get back to normal. For some women, it can take months to conceive. For me personally, it took 18 months after only one Depo shot to get pregnant.

What About Conceiving After Receiving Several Depo Shots?

Delayed fertility is a common issue in women who have used Depo-Provera as long-term contraception.

"Depo persists in the body for several months after the last injection," says Dr. Prince. "As such, 70% of women are able to conceive within 12 months. Fertility can be delayed up to two or more years in some cases."

As mentioned above, regular periods may not return for several weeks to several months. On average, most women will not ovulate for approximately 6-9 months, and some sources say that time frame may even be 6-18 months.

Studies on the subject don't show any evidence that using Depo-Provera delays a woman's ability to conceive. In a study published in the Journal of Biosocial Science of nearly 800 women who had recently stopped using Depo-Provera, the median wait to conceive was 5.5 months. Adding the time that the last injection was effective (3 months) extends the median delay to 8.5 months.

Can I Get Pregnant Even if My Period Hasn't Resumed Yet?

Yes, about 70% of women will conceive within 12 months after the last injection even if normal menses has not returned. As long as normal ovulation has returned, pregnancy may occur. Ovulation occurs first, then your period, so theoretically you can conceive without your first period after discontinuing Depo shots. Once your menstrual cycles resume, you should have no increased difficulty conceiving, particularly if your periods were regular prior to using Depo-Provera.

If a Depo injection is given without two negative pregnancy tests and more than five days after your period, there is a chance you could get pregnant.

How You Can Get Pregnant After Stopping Depo Provera Shots

If you would like to get pregnant after taking the Depo shot, here are some things you can do:

  • Begin to track your ovulation with an ovulation kit, especially if your periods are not occurring once a month.
  • Track your periods and make a note when they become regular.
  • Have intercourse every other day from the time you stop your period until your next period, especially around ovulation.
  • Take prenatal vitamins to give your body what it needs to support a pregnancy.
  • If you don't get pregnant after a year of actively trying and you are under 35, visit your OB-GYN.
  • If you are over 35, visit your OB-GYN after six months of actively trying to conceive.

Above all, be patient. It may take a while to become pregnant after stopping the shots.

Your chance of getting pregnant while using Depo Provera is 0.3%, which means that three women out of a thousand get pregnant while using it.

The Depo Detox Diet to Get Pregnant

Some women, after stopping the Depo shot, turn to a detox diet to help their bodies get rid of the synthetic progesterone lingering in their bodies.

The detox diet helps to flush the synthetic progesterone from the liver and may help with becoming pregnant.

The herbs on this list, particularly dandelion root and milk thistle, encourage detoxification, according to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

A detox diet may include the following:

  • a lot of water
  • fresh fruits and vegetables (and their juices)
  • herbal teas
  • dandelion root
  • milk thistle
  • turmeric

Again, be sure to consult your doctor before going on any kind of detox diet.

Note: If you are considering one of these detox diets, first consult your doctor. Some of the herbs may not be suitable for you or may be dangerous for an underlying condition you may have. You also should wait a few weeks to allow your body to rid itself of the hormone and to heal.

Menstrual Periods on the Depo Shot

After the first Depo shot, many women will experience irregular or unpredictable bleeding as the body gets used to the synthetic hormone.

For many women on the Depo shot, periods will be light and often disappear after the first few months on the shot (that is called amenorrhea, or the absence of a period).

Other women may experience heavy bleeding, which may last only for the length of a period or may last for weeks on end.

Depo Injection

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Depo Shot

If you are considering Depo Provera as a form of birth control, be aware of the advantages and disadvantages.

AdvantagesDisadvantages

more than 99% effective

not effective against STDs

protection lasts for three months

loss of bone minerals, which can cause osteoperosis

less expensive than other birth control

quarterly doctors visits

no need to remember it, other than doctor visits

weight gain

chance of not having periods while on shot

effects last for a while even after last shot

may prevent uterine fibroids

many unpleasant side effects

Side Effects of the Depo Shot

Depo-Provera has many unpleasant side effects, a few of which are also found in other forms of birth control:

  • irregular bleeding, heavy bleeding, or no bleeding at all
  • weight gain
  • headaches
  • abdominal discomfort
  • hair growth or loss
  • nervousness
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • breast tenderness
  • acne
  • fluid retention or bloating
  • increased risk of bone fracture (decreased bone density)

Weight gain is one of the side effects that bothers women the most. In fact, for every year a woman is on Depo-Provera, she gains additional weight, nearly doubling the weight gain from the initial year.

A combination of some of these side effects—namely fatigue, lack of bleeding (amenorrhea), breast tenderness, and bloating—can make some women feel like they are pregnant.

Serious side effects include anaphylactic reactions (severe allergic reactions) and ectopic pregnancy.

How Long Should I Use Depo-Provera?

This form of birth control is for those who wish not to get pregnant at all or who wish not to get pregnant for a long while after giving birth.

The recommended use for this shot is no more than two years, unless no other form of birth control works or is acceptable, due to the fact that it may cause bones to weaken from calcium loss.

Stopping the Depo Shot

After experiencing the side effects of Depo-Provera or wanting to become pregnant, many women choose to stop getting the shots. To do so, contact your health care provider and ask to cancel your next shot. You may be asked about another form of birth control, or if you need any more information.

  • When you stop taking the shot, it may take several weeks to several months to have a regular period again.
  • You may once again experience irregular bleeding and abnormal periods until the hormone is out of your system.
  • Most women may not experience ovulation for approximately 6-9 months after stopping the shot, while others may get pregnant soon after stopping the shot.
  • If you want to stop the shot yet still don't want to become pregnant, use some other form of birth control.

Depo Shot

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. The first shot of Depo Provera should be taken:
    • before a period
    • during the first 5 days of a period
  2. The Depo shot is:
    • 99% effective
    • 100% effective
  3. The Depo shot only contains:
    • synthetic estrogen
    • synthetic progesterone
  4. Periods on the Depo shot may:
    • disappear completely
    • continue on forever

Answer Key

  1. during the first 5 days of a period
  2. 99% effective
  3. synthetic progesterone
  4. disappear completely

As you can see, the Depo-Provera shots are a long-term birth control option that may not be for everyone.

Be sure to make an informed decision if you are choosing this shot as your birth control.

Sources

  1. How Progesterone Works
  2. FDA Information about Depo Provera
  3. American Pregnancy (Depo Provera)
  4. Family Doctor (Depo Provera)
  5. WebMD (Depo Provera)
  6. Herbs for Detox
  7. Return of fertility after use of the injectable contraceptive Depo Provera
  8. The Long-Term Health Implications of Depo Provera
  9. Detoxification in Naturopathic Medicine: A Survey

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I get pregnant after only one shot of Depo?

Answer: Yes, it's possible.

Question: I have been off my Depo for a month & we are trying to get pregnant. How long before the Depo will leave my system so we can start trying?

Answer: It varies from woman to woman.

Question: I just got a Depo shot today, and it was my very first shot. I got it on the first day of my menstrual cycle then I had unprotected sex. What are the chances of pregnancy?

Answer: Anytime you have sex there's a chance of pregnancy. If you had sex while on your menstrual cycle, your chances of becoming pregnant are slim. That is not to say that it doesn't happen, however. From this point forward I highly suggest using some sort of protection if you are not intending on becoming pregnant.

Question: My girlfriend says she is pregnant. She missed her Depo shot by a couple of days but was getting the shot religiously before we were together, and during the two years we have been together. What is the possibility that she is indeed pregnant in this scenario?

Answer: Pregnancy can occur even when taking birth control or getting the Depo shot.

Question: I've been on the depo shot for over five years now. I missed it on the 19th of April 2018 and had sex on the 30th of April. I didn't get my depo done until the 15th of May. I feel so sick. Do you think I'm pregnant?

Answer: What you are feeling is most likely from missing the shot and then going back on it. If you feel as if you may be pregnant, take a test.

Question: I had four Depo shots, and the last one is due on the 15th of March. How soon can I get pregnant after the last shot?

Answer: It depends on a number of factors. You could get pregnant immediately, or it could take a while.

Question: I just got depo yesterday and I had sex today. I have been on depo for three years. Is it possible for me to get pregnant?

Answer: If you have been consistently on the shot for the past three years, it is possible that you are still protected by the shot even though you just got it the day before.

Question: I started having my normal period after I stopped taking the Depo shot. Will I get pregnant soon?

Answer: There's no way to know. It is different for every woman.

Question: My next Depo shot should have been on Jan. 19, but I decided not to get it. I then had irregular menstruation and had unprotected intercourse with my husband. Will I get pregnant?

Answer: It's possible, but it might take a while for you to get pregnant.

Question: I had my first Depo shot on the 29th of January, and I just had my first period from February 27th to March 6th. Is it safe for me to have sex after my first period?

Answer: I believe so, but you might want to use another form of protection just in case.

Question: I started getting Depo shots in 2007, and stopped in March of 2017. My period still has not returned. I want to get pregnant. What should I do?

Answer: At this point, you can follow the tips in the article or contact your doctor.

Question: I got my first depo shot six days after my period. The next day, for the first night, my husband I had unprotected sex. During the following month, my period was normal after three days. My period has since stopped. I missed my next depo shot the month after that. Is it possible that I'm pregnant because I feel like a sick girl?

Answer: It is possible that the side effects of the depo shot have messed with your menstrual cycle. If you think you may be pregnant, however, you should take a test to find out.

Question: I used depo on the 31 Oct and had unprotected sex on the 2 Nov but lately I am having pregnancy symptoms and took a pregnancy test during the day. It came negative. Can I still be pregnant and not know ?

Answer: It could just be symptoms from the shot. I hope that your doctor spoke with you about having protected sex for a few weeks.

Question: My Depo Provera shot wore off and I've noticed my stomach has gotten bigger and not in a way weight gain would cause. How can I tell if I am pregnant or not?

Answer: Take a test.

Question: Can I get pregnant after my period which came immediately after I stopped taking my Depo shots?

Answer: For some women it happens immediately, but for others it can take a while.

Question: Just got off depo July 19th 2018. I took 2 home tests and they were positive. I went to docs and that test was negative. I still think I am pregnant? How long should I wait?

Answer: I would suggest waiting a week or so. If you still feel pregnant, it might just be the effects of the shot.

Question: I was on Depo for nine years. I have been off of it for five months with no period. Can you get pregnant before your first period?

Answer: Yes, it's possible.

Question: I've been on the depo for a year and one month. Can I get pregnant, and if so, how long will it take?

Answer: You probably can't get pregnant, but how long it takes varies from woman to woman.

Question: Can I get pregnant after a depo shot?

Answer: Yes, it's possible.

Question: My last depo shot was May 11, 2017. I was supposed to go back August 1, 2017, but I didn't go. It's been 10 months still no period and no pregnancy. What do I do?

Answer: If you have questions about getting pregnant after using the Depo shot, you should speak with a doctor.

Question: I was supposed to get my shot Tuesday but I had unprotected sex last week and I feel funny. Can I be pregnant?

Answer: It's possible, but you also may be feeling the effects of the shot still.

Question: I have been off my Depo for a month & we are trying to get pregnant. How long before the Depo will leave my system so we can start trying ?

Answer: If you reread the article, it explains it all. It is different for every woman.

Question: Can I get pregnant after stopping the birth control depo for three months?

Answer: It's possible.

Question: I’ve only had one Depo shot. I was supposed to get my second on May 15th and I never did. Can I get pregnant?

Answer: It's possible, but it may take a while.

Question: I had my Depo on February 22nd, and on 25th, I had unprotected sex. Is there a possibility that I got pregnant?

Answer: Yes. Usually, when they give you the Depo shot they give you the pamphlet to read, and it says not to have unprotected sex for a few weeks.

Question: I had been on the Depo shot for six months, and I stopped taking it on March 28th. My period then began on April 1st. Can I get pregnant immediately after my period?

Answer: Some women can get pregnant immediately, while for others it takes quite a while.

Question: I have only had one Depo Provera shot and have gotten my period within a month of the medicine running out. Do you think I can still get pregnant?

Answer: It's possible, but I too only got one shot and it took about 18 months. It is different for every woman. It could happen immediately or can happen after a while.

Question: I have been on the Depo shot for two years. I missed my last shot date on December 22. Is there a chance I could be pregnant? My boyfriend and I don’t use condoms. What are the chances of me getting pregnant soon?

Answer: Anytime you have sex you can get pregnant. How long before you can get pregnant depends on a number of factors. Some women get pregnant right away, but for most, it takes a while.

Question: I’ve been on the depo for 2 years and maybe a half. I got my last shot November I was supposed to get it the beginning of February. I’ve had unprotected sex with my spouse since... I’ve taken 3 pregnancy tests and they all came out negative. Could I possibly be pregnant and the depo is messing with the tests or am I still protected from the depo?

Answer: Depo doesn't mess with pregnancy tests. Chances are you still have it in your system. It may take awhile to get pregnant.

Question: I got the Depo shot on the 9th, and then I had unprotected sex the 11th, but I still haven’t gotten my period. Could I be pregnant?

Answer: Anytime you have unprotected sex you can become pregnant. The Depo shot usually does not fully enter your system for at least a few weeks, so it is possible to get pregnant even after the first shot. I suggest taking a pregnancy test if you think you might be pregnant.

Question: I’ve been on the depo shot for four years and I've stopped having my period but I was wondering if I can still get pregnant?

Answer: You can still get pregnant even though you don't have periods. It is harder to determine when to try to get pregnant. I suggest speaking with your doctor.

Question: I only took one shot in December 2017 and I had to go for another one on the 28 March and I didn't go. I have been having unprotected sex since then. It's been a month and a half now. Could I be pregnant?

Answer: The only way to know is to take a test.

Question: I got off depo. I was supposed to get a shot on January 30th, 2019. I decided to not go and I am worried. I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend on March 31st, 2019. Would I get pregnant?

Answer: while it's possible that you might still be covered under the effects of the shot, it is possible to become pregnant, especially when you have unprotected sex.

Question: I have been on the depo shot for five years, and just recently stopped taking it. How soon will I become pregnant?